Friday, July 24, 2009

Percolated Recap: Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (Christmas Special)

"With all the things a Time Lord has seen, everything he's lost, he must surely have bad dreams."
Before I begin, I have to be honest. I do not like this year's Christmas special. In fact, I would rate "Voyage of the Damned" above this one, and I didn't think that one was stellar either. I was hoping that with multiple viewings it would improve, like "The Runaway Bride" but no. Every time I watch it, I'm filled with disappointment.

On paper, this special should work. It has the mystery of whether or not the title is the truth (as we didn't really know at the time). It has one of the classic Whovian villains with the Cybermen. It has an angsty Doctor and some pretty awesome guest stars. Dervla Kirwin is definitely cool, and I will watch anything David Morrissey is in because he's the star of my very favourite miniseries of all time.

Thus, I don't know where this special fell flat on its Time Lord face, for me. I can only offer theories. Then again, perhaps this special didn't have a chance. The sense of disappointment when I learned that although David Tennant and David Morrissey would be sharing the screen, there would be neither singing, nor dancing, is indescribable.

Perhaps that's it.

Now, where did we leave off? The Doctor was now on his own after losing, Jack, Mickey, Jackie, Martha and Sarah Jane. He also lost Rose to a clone of himself that came about in a way I'm sure even fanfic writers had yet to conceive of, and lost Donna, amazingly awesome Donna, to the frailties of the human brain. I think the only way the Doctor could be feeling any worse, would have to involve the TARDIS leaving him and K-9 peeing oil on the his leg.

It's 1851, and it's snowing. Of course it's snowing, because it's a Christmas special. It's nice that fictional weather always gets involved in the spirit of the season. Why the Doctor would try and cheer himself up by going anywhere around the holidays makes no sense. Nothing says lonely like not having a single companion around at this time of year.

Wandering through the streets, he is amused by the Dickensian street scenes, and the Dickensian street urchins (one of whom tells the Doctor the year).

Unfortunately, the Doctor hasn't learned not to declare things (like 1851) boring, because that means something disatrous has to happen, almost instantaneously. As, almost instantaneously after declaring 1851 "boring," the Doctor hears shouts of "Doctor!" sending the Doctor running smack into my second theory (after the no singing and dancing) as to why this special doesn't quite work.
Despite whatever loud snarly thing is behind the thankfully solid door, Rosita takes the time to point out (after the requisite Doctor Who joke) that the Doctor is not her Doctor. Her Doctor is someone else entirely. He's also "the one, the only, the best," which leads credence to the idea that he is another incarnation of the Doctor. The only other person in the Whoniverse with an ego that big is Captain Jack Harkness.
After dropping terms like the Tardis, the sonic screwdriver, Time Lord and allons-y, The Doctor, the real Doctor, is too taken aback to realize that the creature behind the door, is rather symbolic of this "Next Doctor."
As both Doctors stand ready to defend Rosita and her helmet hair, the two Doctors share a knowing look.
After the opening credits, the next Doctor tries to keep the real Doctor safe from the cyberyeti (for lack of a better term). As usual, things go horribly wrong. The two Doctors find themselves dangling by a rope (and the next Doctor's aptitude with the lasso was just to throw us off the scent of how badly things will go) as the cyberyeti, a phrase which here means, stuntman wearing what looks to be a skinned muppet, continues to climb up the wall. In fact, the cyberyeti barely notices that two fully grown men are trying to hold it down.

Not that the two grown men pay much attention either. The two Doctors spend more time talking about themselves (the real Doctor is shocked that the next Doctor neither recognizes nor cares who he is). Instead, they wind up being dragged up the wall of a building and then across a concret floor, before fate finally intervenes.
Fate comes in the form of Rosita of the helmet hair, and it is up to her to save both Doctors. She cuts the rope tying the Doctors to the cyberyeti, just moments before they're thrown out a window. To celebrate, the Doctors invent a new sport.
They rub their asses, laugh and hug. As dirty as that sounds, I'm not making that up.

They continue laughing all the way outside, where the next Doctor finally remembers his manners and introduces the real Doctor to Rosita. The real Doctor declare Rosita a "good name" and I don't know if it was the sleepiness from the turkey at Christmas, but I swear, I did not get the joke the first time I watched this. *headdesk*

The next Doctor is suffering the inevitable soreness that would come with being dragged up a wall and across a floor, and makes a crack about his age. Trying again to get the next Doctor to recognize him, the real Doctor, after making what I hope isn't a foreshadowing joke about regenerating after tripping over a brick, realizes that the next Doctor is missing a whole bunch of necessary memories.

Going back with the old faithful identity of John Smith, the real Doctor listens as the next Doctor tries to piece together the recent invasion of the Cybermen. The problem is, the next Doctor can only remember the basics of the Cybermen's origins and that "something was taken and something was lost."

The next Doctor is amazed that "you [John Smith] don't blink" the concept of the Cybermen. Hoping this is another way to unlock some of the hidden memories, the real Doctor talks about the significance of not blinking, to no avail. Well, the next Doctor may not remember it, but I do, and am still hoping Sally Sparrow might, one day, make another appearance in the Whoniverse.

The next Doctor rushes off to a funeral, leaving the real Doctor confuddled.

Cyberman Headquarters: Even the Cybermen try to throw us off the track by misidenifying the Doctor.
We also learn that there is a woman working with them, who wants a place of importance at the court of the Cyberking. I don't think that's going to work out for anyone.

Funeral: The next Doctor isn't really attending the funeral of Reverence Fairchild, he's just using it as a opportunity to break into the reverend's house. He's going to do it alone because B&E isn't woman's work. Uhh, what? Usually, I would write a treatise on that, but what the next doctor says afterward is so incomprehenisble, it merits more of a focus.

Since when has that ever applied? Certainly not in Sarah Jane's time, or Rose's, or even, but not to the same extent, Martha's. I don't think it applied even once to Donna Noble, who made a concerted effort to always challenge the Doctor and yet things always worked out for the best.
(Plus, Donna Noble was made of awesome.) Well, for the best when it comes to the human race, not the Doctor.

The real Doctor watches Rosita stomp off to the TARDIS, then breaks in ahead of the next Doctor. Why does 10 get in so easily while the other one fiddles with the lock? Well, yet another reason this Christmas special doesn't work it for me.
The justification for calling it a sonic screwdriver is because it makes a noise when hit against something. Well, my head makes a noise when it hits the desk but I don't go around bragging about my sonic noggin.

Inside, the next Doctor explains how the mystery began: the death of math teacher Jackson Lake. The death was horrible, apparently, even though no body was ever found. Then more people disappeared and children were taken. It culminated with the death of the reverend whose house the two Doctors are burglarizing, and the reverend had a lot of connections to children's charities.

In the middle of the story, the next Doctor stops, amazed at how much he is telling John Smith. The next Doctor is convinced that John Smith is familiar to him, and the real Doctor suggests something that I didn't initially consider.
It's a fob watch. I would do a whole build up, because we all know what fob watches can do for Time Lords, but, like the sonic screwdriver or the companion Rosita, the fob watch is another sign that the next Doctor is one big epic failure. Once opened, the pieces of the fob watch fall out.

A quick search of the room (with the real Doctor surreptitiously using the actual sonic screwdriver) results in the discovery of metal tubes, that the Doctor immediately identifies as info stamps. This just goes to prove how much smarter the Doctor is, because, looking at them, they don't scream "I contain tonnes of information, like the history of London."
Just like the real Doctor, the info stamps seem very familiar to the next Doctor, but considering he has to sit down in shock, I'm guessing the association isn't quite as glee-inducing. After a couple flashes, which give away far more than they should, this early on. He claims he was holding one the night he regenerating, but since it's clearly David Morrissey and not David Tennant reaching for the info stamp in the first place, I'm not going to be thrown off with the cheap ass effect of the overlay of 10's face.

Sure, the next Doctor asks the real Doctor to help him, but the way it's filmed, I'm guessing there's been quite a bit of slash written about it.

Doing one last check of the place, the Doctor meets either a Cyberman, or the world's worst butler.
Cue the running. In what has to be my favourite scene in the whole special, the real Doctor tries to threaten the Cybermen with a sword, sounding all tough, only to run away. He keeps saying "this is your last warning" a phrase which works neither with toddlers, nor, apparently, Cybermen.

In a last ditch effort to protect his new regeneration, because I think time and space would be utterly destroyed if the same Time Lord regenerated two separate version of himself at the same time, the real Doctor tells the Cybermen his real identity. His confession and his swordsmanship do absolutely nothing for either Doctor.

It's the next Doctor that has to save them. Using what little memory he has, he recalls that opening an info stamp and pointing it at the Cybermen, will disable them. While it impresses the real Doctor, the next Doctor isn't impressed that the real Doctor stole back his identity. Wow, is it just me, or is that sentence both true, and confusing?

Anyway, the next Doctor compares the real Doctor to the Cybermen -- stealing something of great importance. The real Doctor, after examining the other man with his trust stethoscope, realizes that the next Doctor doesn't have the heart of a Time Lord.
Funeral: The attending priest has difficulty talking about what will happen to the boy in the ground when he's clearly distracted by the body of the woman in red, who we saw earlier with the Cybermen.
She's Miss Hartigan, a matron of a workhouse, and someone with a really big score to settle with all the men in attendance. Score to settle, a phrase which here means, have everyone except for a select few, killed in the graveyard by the Cybermen. Even the cyberyeti takes part in the slaughter. Well, at least funereal transportation cots have been eliminated. The bodies don't have to go far to be buries.

Miss Hartigan, who has the darkly amusing first name of Mercy, says what she needs from the survivors are their children. (Not like that.)
Once both Doctors are greeted by an enthusiastic Rosita, the real Doctor gets an eyeful of the next Doctor's living conditions, making us wonder what's up with the TARDIS, since the pair of them are living in a stable, surrounded by Jackson Lake's luggage.

While the next Doctor warms by the fire, Rosita doesn't buy the whole whistling story, mainly because she sees the actual sonic screwdriver. Good to know that under her helmet hair, she's not an idiot.

As the real Doctor fishes through Jackson Lake's luggage, Rosita explains how she met her Doctor. It involves being saved, late at night, from an alien. Afterward, she became his companion, and worries about his mental health. Hmm, sounds familiar.

What concerns her the most are the dreams. Her Doctor has the worst dreams, but, considering what we know of the Doctor's life, even forgetting a huge chunk of it would still resort in nightmares. The next Doctor phrases it best in the quote I used to start this recap.
We get away from the maudlin, becasue this is a Christmas special, and back to the mystery as the real Doctor pulls an info stamp from the luggage. The real Doctor thinks the TARDIS will help things, that is, until he sees the next Doctor's TARDIS.
Instead of Time And Relative Dimension In Space, it now stands for Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style. I guess I have a completely different concept of style, because I would be terrified of that thing.

There's another person tending to the TARDIS, Jed. He's taking care of the technical aspects of the hot air balloon, so I think he's more Mickey than Jack. On the other hand, he is dealing with hot air, which would make him more Jack than Mickey. On the other hand, he is really inconsequential, which might make him more Jackie than anything -- except he never slaps the Doctor. Now my brain hurts.

The next Doctor has never ridden in his TARDIS, but wants to. For him, the idea of all that time, and space, is something the real Doctor knows well.

When the real Doctor asks the other man what he's escaping from, I think that's a question that should be turned back towards the person who asked it. How interesting a self-analysis would that be?

Of course, that would be too emotionally taxing on our Doctor, so, he, instead, decides to tell the next Doctor how he wound up thinking he's a Time Lord.

Elsewhere: Since we need to think that the next Doctor is waffling on his decision, even though the plot would grind to a halt without him choosing to find out why he thinks he's the Doctor, we switch over to Miss Hartigan. She's having a great time playing with the men who used to ignore her, by having them do a parody of some army exercises, turning left, the right, the the hokey pokey, okay, maybe I added that last bit.
She sends them off on their appointed tasks, whatever nefarious tasks they may be, and heads off in a carriage driven by the cyberyeti.

Stables: The scene previous is just long enough, to make us think there was a moment of doubt for the next Doctor, enough time for everyone to move back inside, and settle in for the important exposition story. Oh yes, it was also long enough for Christmas Day to be rung in.
To begin, the Doctor explains the events of "Doomsday," but simplifies it enough to not have any unfortunate 1851 brain explosions, or have me weeping. He also covers a little of how people / Daleks / Cybermen were able to escape the void, which we all know from the two-parter season finale, so we excess explanation.

Essentially, it sums up this way: the next Doctor is Jackson Lake. Like we hadn't already figured that out, but the best part is that the Doctor wasn't wrong earlier. The next Doctor's real identity is in the fob watch -- just not exactly what the Doctor was expecting.
How Jackson Lake's mind fooled him into thinking he was the Doctor is all the result of an info stamp. Just like he did at the house, Lake used one to disable the Cybermen and escape, but this info stamp had ten things that are very, very familiar.
I have to admit, when Nine came up, I applauded. It is impossible for me to explain how deeply I love Nine.

Lake flashes back to the moment the info stamp downloaded the Doctor into his head. He feels he's just a fake, but the Doctor insists otherwise. I'd like to debate that, especially considering the revelation that comes next. Lake wasn't alone when he was attacked by the Cybermen. His wife, Caroline was killed, and because of the trauma, Lake became someone else. He became someone far more capable of dealing with the pain and the loss, all the while defending the town against vicious killers.
The info stamps, including the shitload (actual number) in Lake's luggage, start beeping, indicating the Cybermen are on the move. As the Doctor runs off, in pursuit of whatever is happening, Lake sends Rosita to help. She was sensible enough to save them at the beginning, and, should things get dangerous, they can take cover under her hair.

It's one of the men saved from the funeral, taking a parade of children somewhere. The man has a primitive version of the transmitters from "Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel" or, as they were previously known in literature, the seashells from Fahrenheit 451, in his ears. Before the Doctor can remove them, the cyberyeti intervenes.
Jed, the useless other companion from earlier, makes a derisive comment about the children from the workhouses, and how he saw a whole other lot of them just moment before. Yup, completely obtuse and derisive, he's definitely more Jackie than Mickey or Jack.

By the way, I would like to point out that both men, are walking exactly the same group of children. While I know the clearly had dozens on set, it would've been bloody simple to hide that they were just reusing the extras. Instead, they made it ridiculously easy to spot.
When the two groups meet up with each other, I wonder if the universe will implode as there are doubles of the same children are now in the same exact spot in time. I guess it's a bit unfair me postulating that. This is an episode of Doctor Who. How boring would it be if there wasn't a chance of the Whoniverse imploding?

Considering what the children are confronted with upon arriving at their new place of work -- Cybermen and cyberyeti -- they react extremely rationally. No one screams, cries, or shouts out something profane, probably to keep their Welsh accents hidden as this is set in London. Not that we haven't seen that before in new Who.

Back in the stables, recovering from his almost breakdown, Lake ransacks his own luggage. He's remembered something of vital importance, but we won't know what it is for a little while, as we just as quickly cut back to the Doctor and Rosita. She's explaining that all the children are being taken into the sewers, which is another environment the Doctor is fairly familar with.

The Doctor and Rosita try to rush in and save them, only to fin themselves confronted by two Cybermen and Miss Hartigan. Assuming the woman has nothing to do with the evilness that embodies the Cybermen, the Doctor gets quite a wake up call, and we get yet another reason this special doesn't quite work for me.
She justifies helping the Cybermen because they've given her liberation. Now, in no way am I ignoring the plight of women during this time. The rights were few and far between and yes, they were, save for a few exceptions, dependent on men for money, opportunities, or even a chance to be heard.

She then goes on to dismiss Rosita, implying that she's useless because she might be a prostitute. Somehow, I don't think Miss Hartigan and her penchant for evil helps the future suffragette movement. In fact, she'd be the poster girl for chauvinist as to what happens when there isn't a man in charge.

The Doctor plays the only card he's got -- himself -- and tosses the Cybermen the info stamp to prove it. Unfortunately, since we're only we;'re just past the halfway point, it isn't going to work. The Cyberman repairs the info stamp and now, after seeing a bunch of really familiar clips, has the Doctor, the real, the one and only, in his sights.
The one question is, while I approve of many of the choices, particularly the wet Ten from "The Runaway Bride," I'm curious as to why they chose mostly clips that had nothing to do with either the Cybermen or the Daleks. How then, did the Daleks get this info which was thensubsequently passed on to the Cybermen?

There isn't the time for the Doctor to ask these sorts of questions because as Mercy Hartigan is not helping women's rights, by trying to destroy the empire and help the Cyberking (not that she tells the Doctor that) because the Doctor is busy trying not to get deleted. All of this before London is almost destroyed, yet again, on Christmas Day. I often tease my friends when they go to England not to go near Canary Wharf, but I think it would be a public service if London was emptied on Christmas.

It's ot the Doctor, or the clever companion that saves them. Heck, the old standby of running doesn't even come into play. This time, it's something unique.
Disabling the Cyberman with an info stamp, Jackson Lake looks like he's ready for war, with an arsenal of info to help him. As much as I can't stand what I hope is the accidental portrayal of the Whoniverse's worst feminist, the fact that a device to carry info, is more important than any weapon in this special, makes me smile. The concept pleases me almost as much as how a story and the power of human imagination, are the most powerful things in the Whoniverse.

The Doctor, Jackson, and Rosita make their escape as Dervla Kirwin's accent slips while shouting at the Cybermen to shoot the good guys. Oh yes, and Rosita's highlight comes here; she punches Miss Hartigan. That's more like it. It could only have been a better moment if Rosita had headbutted Miss Hartigan.

I have to give Rosita even more creidt because her punch stops the cyberyeti in their tracks and she didn't even hit one of them.

Unfortunately, this means that the plan for the rise of the Cyberking has just been moved up a few hours. Well, Rosita's punch can't solve everything.

Jackson has something else to contibute, a very important piece of paper that will lead them to a very important cellar, where not only was his wife killed but also something he can't quite remember was there too. What piece of paper is it?
It's a deed, of course, for the house the happy (and whole) Lake family will never use. By the way, the cinematopgraphers are super lazy in this special, since the blurry image that Jackson can't quite remember clearly tells us what, or who, it is that's missing.
Could they not have tried just a little harder? I swear, the only people making an effort in this special are its leads.

Back with Miss Hartigan, the Cybermen are praising her wisdom in moving up the assention of the Cyberking. They also probably think her killing of the charity workers is also a swell idea.
As for who else is assisting with the rise of the Cyberking, why, it's a workforce of children. I think we're supposed to be appalled about the working conditions and all the little pitiful waifs being forced to work. The problem is, I'm not. Why? This is the Victorian era. Child labour in the Victorian era isn't exactly shocking.

Plus, it doesn't help that the waifs are all working in what is obviously the redressed Torchwood Hub. Sadly, I didn't even need to look up the trivia on this special to realize this (just to confirm my suspicions). I did, on the other hand, spot the brick wall, the floor, and other basic structural elements I'm used to seeing in Torchwood.
Cellar: There's a cyberman waiting for them, but is quickly defeated by info on the French Revolution and the Cult of Skaro. Okay, so maybe we won't know for sure what is in each of the info stamps, so I'm just going to make it up.

The cyberman was guarding a dimension vault (which looks like a baby Dalek, sans plunger), before it got taken out by the events surrounding the storming of the Bastille and the Doctor thinks the vault is what Jackson couldn't remember. I would scoff at this, but the Doctor doesn't have the advantage of very clear fuzzy flashbacks, and no, while that is an oxymoron, it's not an inaccurate description.
We switch back to Miss Hartigan, who is being escorted to the throne room of the Cyberking.
She also gets an early Christmas present from the grateful Cybermen. It involves being heralded and beloved, well, as much as the Cybermen can love anyone.
I'm not too sure whether using her as the Cyberking offends my inner feminist, or not. Well, considering what's going to happen later, I'm not going to take too much time to mull that over.

As for the Doctor, Jackson and Rosita, they're making their way through what will never, ever be part of a Doctor Who set tour.
I'm not too sure what this scene is for, other than to explain what the Cybermen ultimately want out of the universe. They want everyone to be like them. If this were an entirely different sci-fi universe, we would call them the Borg, but since the Cybermen predate the Borg by several decades, the Cybermen win.

And why are the Cybermen converting Miss Hartgan into the Cyberking? Let me fill in the sexist message behind it: because the woman can't control her emotions. I may vomit.

But wait, there's more! She pleads for pity. A woman who was a part of masterminding everything, at the last minute pleads for pity. Strike the word may from the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
Now that Miss Hartigan's been relieved of her emotions, and taken on a male title, she can be hailed by everyone. I cannot believe that this isn't a script they've borrowed from the William Hartnell era. The sexism would be about right.
Oh look, the Doctor's in the Hub! Jack will be so pleased! I'm pretty sure Captain Jack Harkness has had quite a few fantasies about the Doctor in the Hub (and Ianto must've been involved in said fantasies too). The problem is, this isn't 21st century Wales, and I have to pretend I don't know it's the Hub, while I also have to pretend to be shocked by child labour in the Victorian era.
The Doctor figures out that the Hub's been turned into an engine, powered by children instead of the the more comical option of hamsters running on their wheels.
Jackson wants to stop the engine using the info on how to correctly knit a scarf longer than two people in length and the best way to make an espresso, but the Doctor needs to know the master plan first. Well, I don't mean the Master plan, I mean the Cybermen's master plan. I mean -- oh I give up.

Methinks the plan has gone awry when Miss Hartigan's brain starts rewriting things and is still filled with emotion. This results in the Cybermen doing to Cybermen version of "oh shit" and trying to disconnect her from the rest. Well, if they wanted a contingency plan, perhaps they should've left one thing off the Cyberman crown.
After the one cyberman with balls is all esplodedy, the Cybermen fall into line, and the engine reaches 100 percent capacity. Usually, when a workforce has 100%, they don't get deleted, but clearly the whole workplace morale thing is beyond the concept of certain overglorified tinmen.
Before any of the children can be killed, using an infor stamp explaining why the excessive celebration rule in college football seems to include cracking a smile, and the information stats on the amount of cheese made in Switzerland, Jackson saves them all. As for the Doctor and Rostia, they usher the children out, as the Hub is really no place for anyone under the age of 18.

Watching the children run out into the street, where London probably won't even notice a few hundred extra orphans without homes during this time, Jackson has a realization. It's a realization that's accompanied by the soft voices of OMIGOD in the background, and flashbacks, so it must be really really important. Oh yes, it's also accompanied by one word in the flashback, "Father!" in case we hadn't already worked it out. I make better use of my time trying to see if some set dresser missed hiding one of Ianto's coffee mugs.

On the highest platform in the Hub, stands Frederick, Jackson's son. It's too bad for Jackson that he only has one child because even through Frederick helped the Cybermen run the engine, a really basic concept has escaped him.
The Hub is now entirely engulfed in flames as the Cyberking rises and Frederick's opportunity to understand the purpose of stairs is thwarted by the flames.

On the other hand, this does give the Doctor and excuse to act like Tarzan, and look adorable (and heroic) while rescuing Frederick.
Thus, Jackson is given the best present of all, his son. All we needed was for Frederick to say "God bless us everyone," and the scene would be complete. The problem is, this is the Whoniverse and in the Whoniverse we all know there is no god.

Outside, Rosita sends all the orphans to St Stephen's, whatever that is, while the Doctor, Jackson and Frederick escape the destruction of the Hub. Hmm, the Hub being destroyed seems to be a motif in the Whoniverse this year.

Holding court with her Cybermen and pet cyberyeti, Miss Hartigan, much to Rosita's shock, towers over London in her giant Cyberman.
I have to admit, the giant sort of Cyberman made me laugh, a lot, so I decided to fix it by changing it to something far more terrifying.
The Doctor takes something conveniently shaped like a sword form the dimension vault, as Miss Hartigan announces her ascension to the throne and how she'll walk across "this tiny, little world." Sorry Miss Hartigan, but there is no way you can walk across the Earth with the same level of panache as Martha Jones.

Cue the screaming and running.

For some reason Miss Hartigan is confused as to why everyone isn't quite as happy about a bit robot stomping on houses / people / puppies as she is.

The Doctor sends Jackson away, in order to look after Frederick. At first, jackson protests, but since creating orphans doesn't exactly say "Merry Christmas," like say, almost everyone dying.
The Doctor won't be totally alone because he'll have Jed. Remember Jed? Yeah, well, he's going to help make the TARDIS fly. Thus, let us go over this plan. The Doctor, using a hot air balloon, some info stamps, and and the dinension sword, is going to take down the Cyber-Voltron. If any other person in history was involved, I would say Earth is screwed.
While Miss Hartigan shoots up London, Jackson is reunited with Rosita, and introduces her to his son. The three of them watch the TARDIS float silently behind the Cyberking, and Jackson makes sure the Doctor gets the credit for saving everyone. That's nice, for a change.

Miss Hartigan turns the Cybervoltron around and the Doctor arms himself with a vast amount of knowledge.
In what I think was meant to be a throwaway line that Miss Hartigan makes into something both horrifying and pitiful, she sneers, "Yet another man come to assert himself against me in the night." Someone explain to me how the implications of that line screams, "we need to hear this on Christmas?"

The Doctor gives an ultimatum. Either she agrees to let the Doctor find a world where she (and her remarkable mind) and the Cybermen can live with her bossing them around, or she'll die. Of course, the Doctor says it much more nicely than I do, but that's what it is sums up as. Her answer to this ultimatum is equally as easy to sum up.
He sprays her with knowlege (which sounds like a euphemism), severing the cyber-connection. It's at this pint I get completely lost. It seems like he's severed only the connection to the angry emotions. Hell, instead of trying to analyze it, I'm just going to list exactly what happened and perhaps you can explain it to me.

  • The conneciton is severed.
  • She looks around and realizes she's strapped into the thrown.
  • Electical energy like the Emperor's buzzes around.
  • Miss Haritgan screams, it's a high pitched, break glass sort of scream.
  • The Cybermen, cyberyeti, and Miss Hartigan explodes. Whether or not it is due to the scream, the energy, or they were just running out of time in the special, is debatable.
  • The Doctor stares, being all moody Doctor is moody.
  • The rest of London runs out of the way, avoiding the falling body of the Cyberking, which is the only thing that should've exploded, but didn't.
Narrowly avoiding a good portion of London being flattened, the Doctor uses the Dimensional Sword to send the Cyberking, well, somewhere. For all we know, a planet of sentient jellyfish just had a large robot crush them all. I'm sure that'll be next Christmas's special. Sure, Jackson explains it all for us, although he gives a happier version of the Cyberking being sent into the Time Vortex. Yeah, and everything that goes into the Time Vortex, stays there, unless it's needed for a Christmas special, and season finales, and, hell, crush the jellyfish, it's safer for Earth because nothing stays in the Time Vortex.

Trying to make us forget how sucky this special has been, we get a David Morrissey monolgue about a topic we can all agree on.
Okay, so, like the Doctor earlier, Jackson's speech is much prettier than my version, but mine gets across my frustration at 11 hate. It's not as if a new Doctor is going to lessen Tennant, and if I got over the loss of Eccleston, anything is possible with this show.

(Important recapper note: This ability to get over things does not apply to any of the spin-offs, since I also lost Maria and, more importantly, her really, really hot Dad over on Sarah Jane Adventures, and I'm still not ready to talk about what I lost on Torchwood.)

There's a lot of applause, and the Doctor, humbly accepts the appreciation, which he can somehow hear way up in the air and over the sound of the buring bits of London.
On an non-snarky aside, the Doctor is probably far happier, flying alone above London, than he has been travelling in the TARDIS (the real one) since he lost everyone, including himself (well, sort of himself).

Later, the Doctor and Jackson walk through London, with Jackson gushing on how this will never be forgotten. Oh Jackson, I hate to ruin your enthusiasm, but Retcon actually exists in the Whoniverse.

In the moment that has infuriated me more than any other in this special, yes, the Doctor praises Rosita and Jackson agrees, by deciding that she'll be Frederick's nursemaid. WHAT? She helps save the bloody city and she's rewarded with not only the position as a servant, but also the really, really traditionally female job of nanny? WTF? Someone's punking me and this is a Hartnell-era reject script, right?
Jackson invites the Doctor for Christmas dinner, and the Doctor, but quickly realizes that it's never going to happen. On the other hand, the Doctor does show Jackson the real TARDIS, so it's not the harsh ending I've become accustomed to over the last couple of Christmases.

In his amazement, Jackson nicely sums up so much of the Doctor's life.
The inside of the TARDIS is too much, and Jackson rushes outside. Somewhere in the info stamp, the warning of BAD SHIT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU STAY IN THE TARDIS, must've come through loud and clear.

Jackson asks about something else the info stamp told him -- the Doctor has to have a companion but the Doctor simply replies, "They leave, because they should, or they find someone else, and some of them, some of them, forget me. I suppose, in the end, they break my heart."
Insisting that the Doctor stay for Christmas dinner, and I totally expected the Doctor to make his "just let me get something from the TARDIS," ploy, but was glad he didn't. In fact, I'm even more pleased with one of the Doctor's last lines to Jackson, as they head off to dinner.

"Jackson, if anyone had to be the Doctor, I'm glad it was you."

Me too, Doctor, as it was really one of the only things that made this special tolerable.

The Doctor, and I will return with "Planet of the Dead," which will be airing shortly. As for Torchwood, well, when I can talk rationally about it, I will get to it.


  1. I just finally saw the special a few days ago, and just happened across this recap.

    I *loved* the special; it was my favorite of the Xmas specials so far. But then, you and I clearly disagree on various things; for example, I didn't like Donna much.

    Still, good recap, and I enjoyed your screen caps with notes written on them.

    The one specific thing I want to say is that I assumed that Jackson and Rosita were going to end up as a couple, and I assumed that the Doctor knew that and that's why the raised eyebrows and smirk. Jackson was just a little slow recognizing the depth of their relationship.

    Oh, okay, one more thing: I thought the non-sonic screwdriver was a brilliant touch. It made clear that, as I was already beginning to guess, this was not the Doctor at all, but a human with some of the Doctor's memories; he knew that the Doctor had to have a sonic screwdriver, so he grabbed a screwdriver and then made up some nonsense (which he carefully avoided thinking too hard about) to justify calling it sonic. Likewise with the TARDIS: he knew the Doctor had a transportation unit called a TARDIS; he knew it stood for something; he came up with an acronym expansion that would fit his muddled memories.

    ...All right, one *more* thing: the "Doctor's companion does what the Doctor says" line was a joke. It was supposed to make the audience laugh, because it's so patently untrue and was delivered so earnestly. I laughed a lot at that line.

    Anyway, I thought the whole special was charming and funny and even moving in places. So there.

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  3. This wasn't my favourite of the specials, so on that we'll have to agree to disagree, but that's all right. Everyone's welcome to their opinion and I wouldn't want anyone to think otherwise :)

    Besides, it's more fun hearing what others think. I know what I think, so I enjoy hearing another POV.

    Although, I think everyone can agree that David Morrissey was spot on perfect.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this particular special. On the one hand: Morrissey. Full stop. On the other hand: giant robot. Haven't we done this particular plot already? (several times)

    Nevertheless, I still find myself watching the last ten minutes or so repeatedly (and consistently being threatened by tears as the subject of Donna comes up ever-so-tacitly).

    Anyway, this is me, demanding that you continue with the recaps, Spy! I was a devoted follower of your work on Recapist, and I'm eager to hear your take on, among other things, The End of Time and Amy Pond (who, much like some other people *coughSUSANcough* I find not quite as awesome as the fandom majority would like us to think).

  5. I, too, enjoyed this Christmas special, and particularly agreed with many of Jed's opinions. It is my second favorite after the Christmas Invasion. Anyways, I also agree with Nyssa that you should keep up with the recaps! They're so awesome and I really want to know what you think of the 11th Doctor, Amy, Rory, and all the angst that went down in the End of Time.